A few months ago, I had a realisation: I wasn’t paying enough attention to current events.
Sure, I work in the news business. I watch the news scroll past on Twitter all day long, and there are TVs tuned to news channels in my newsroom. Sometimes I can hear my colleagues around me literally reporting the news.
But that news overload didn’t make me more informed – it just made me want to tune it all out. And at a time when there’s a wild new headline almost every day, this is not the time to stop paying attention.
To solve this problem, I turned to technology. I needed to make the news both unavoidable and digestible, giving me the option to skim the headlines or dive deeper. That solution presented itself in the form of a widget on my iPhone that appears when I swipe right on my home screen.
I started with Apple’s News widget, but then I switched to Google’s when it redesigned Google News in May.
After using both Apple News and Google News over several months, I’ve noticed the strengths and weaknesses of both – along with a clear winner:
Since my gateway into both apps has been the iPhone widget, let’s start there.
At a glance, these widgets look nearly identical, but there are a few key differences to note.
The first is the subtle design differences. Google News keeps it simple: It supplies you with just four top stories, and they’re not categorized. There’s a button on the bottom that says “more stories for you,” which is the easiest way to get into the app.
Apple News, on the other hand, offers you more headlines and separates them by “top stories,” “trending,” and “top videos.” It’s not clear what the difference is between top stories and trending stories.
Unlike with Google News, there’s no obvious way to get into the Apple News app without clicking on a story. At first I hated this about the app, since it meant one extra click to get inside. Thankfully, a reader pointed out that you can open it by clicking on the “news” icon at the top of the widget. It’s not as intuitive as Google News, but it works the same.
But from a content standpoint, both app widgets left a little to be desired.
The mix of stories Google News gave me wasn’t very broad: two entertainment stories, one celebrity-news story, and one tech story. Granted, this is where my interests lie, and Google probably knows this thanks to my desktop browsing habits using Google Chrome. Still, a little diversity would have been nice.
At first glance, Apple News seemed to offer a better mix of stories from more diverse sources. But when you look a little closer, every single headline but one contains the word “Trump.” I don’t know if that’s more on Apple’s design or the reality of our current politics, but it was a bit much.
Inside, the Google News app is clean, simple, and personalised.
One thing I love about using the Google News app is the personalisation at the top. It doesn’t overdo it by giving me too much information – I don’t need my calendar or email here, for instance – but having my name and the local weather report is a nice touch. (If you click on that icon, a pop-up 10-day forecast will appear.)
As you scroll down, you’ll see the top five stories. Google says those stories have been organised for you and are a mix of top headlines, local news in your area, and news from topics you’ve said you’re interested in.
On Tuesday, my top five reflected that well. It included a story about trade, breaking news that Ivanka Trump had shut down her fashion brand, a story about a new restaurant trend in New York, a tech news story about MacBooks, and an entertainment story about something that happened on late-night TV.
Compared with Google News, the Apple News app has a much busier look and feel.
When I opened the app on Wednesday morning, there was a lot going on, design-wise.
A colourful module along the top rounded up stories relating to the 2018 elections. As I scrolled down, the top stories were arranged in tiles, making it feel a little haphazard – it was hard to know where to look first.
That said, the app provided a good mix of stories up top, ranging from politics to science to business. On the flip side, these are the top stories as determined by the Apple News team, and they didn’t include stories from other verticals like sports or entertainment.
One perk of the Apple News app that you don’t get with Google News is the ability to change the font size – you’ll notice that option in the upper-right corner of every article.
Both Apple News and Google News let you customise what type of news you want to follow.
While Apple News has a way to let you search for channels, topics, and stories to follow, Google News does you one better, because it’s simply easier to use. I quickly found a way to do this on Google News, but it was difficult to find on Apple News.
On both apps, you can search for:
- Topics, like the NBA or Meghan Markle.
- Sources, like The New York Times or Elle magazine.
- Locations, like Los Angeles or Paris.
I loved the “locations” tab in particular, since I want more local news in my feeds. Not only do I want to know what’s happening where I work and live, but I also like to stay up on the news in my hometown of Buffalo, New York.
There’s one major way Apple News differs from Google News: ads.
There’s one key downside to the Apple News app: It serves ads, while Google News does not.
The ads appear in different ways. If you’re swiping through the top or trending stories, you might get a full-screen ad between stories. Or as you scroll down the app, there might be an ad between the modules.
The ads don’t feel particularly invasive, and they’re often well-designed to the point that they don’t totally disrupt your user experience.
That said, the Google News app doesn’t have any in-app ads (or if it does, I haven’t been able to find them yet). When you click on a news story, you’ll likely see banner ads, but it’s not quite the same thing – they’re the same as ads you’d find on any website, and they don’t seem to appear anywhere outside individual article pages.
On the flip side, the Google News app has autoplay video.
This didn’t bother me too much – and let’s be honest, it’s becoming the norm on most apps – but it might irritate those who aren’t fans of the feature.
Apple News also has video tiles, but you still manually press play.
Otherwise, Google News and Apple News have a lot of identical features.
Apple News and Google News share a lot of the same basic features, to the point that they work nearly identically.
Here are some of the additional features you’ll find on both apps:
- Sharing stories. You can easily share stories you find in the app to other platforms like email, messages, or social media. For iPhone users, you can even AirDrop a story you find in Apple News.
- Push notifications. Both apps allow you to enable push notifications, though I typically don’t have this turned on.
- Saving stories for later. On Google News, a story you save for later will appear under your “favourites” tab. On Apple News, you’ll see it under your “saved” tab.
- Navigating the app. From a navigation standpoint, the apps work almost exactly the same. You can easily switch between news stories from various sites without actually leaving the app.
- Reading multiple stories on the same topic.Both apps will group stories from various news sites into one module, which is convenient for big stories or breaking news.
So which should you choose?
In the end, Google News is the clear winner.
Apple News certainly has its strengths, and it worked well for me for a few months. Apple News is curated by a team of people, and it also has a greater emphasis on privacy – Apple says it doesn’t collect information about what you’re reading on the app, or sell it to third parties.
But the redesign of the Google News app has turned it into a powerful and effective tool for delivering the news.
It delivers up-to-the-moment news while eliminating the noise of an app like Twitter. It’s customisable while still providing me with diverse news sources. And at the end of the day, it has the power of Google search behind it.
Plus, even though I’m an iPhone user, I never felt as if I was missing out or getting a less effective app than an Android user would.
So if you’re looking to stay informed without being overloaded and want a personalised yet balanced way to consume the news, your best bet is Google News.
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